what birds stay in illinois for winter

How to Help Birds in the Winter

One of the simplest ways to assist birds in the winter is to have a messy yard. Save yourself the headache of raking and clearing leaves; they will improve the soil and create an environment where insects and other small animals can live and be eaten by birds.

Instead, focus your efforts on building a brush pile. Larger logs should be the base, and then the top should be covered with branches, leaves, and other yard debris. This will protect birds from snow and sleet showers and give small mammals a place to live.

According to the Audubon Society, American tree sparrows, black-capped chickadees, and other winter birds may take up residence in your brush pile if you’re fortunate.

Additionally, winter birds struggle to locate sources of clean water that aren’t frozen over. Keep fresh water in a shallow pan that is no deeper than two inches. To enable the birds to determine the depth of the water, toss a few tiny stones or pebbles into the pan. On very cold days, you should leave the pan outside in the sun so the water doesn’t freeze too quickly.

Get creative! If you have little ones at home that want to get involved, creating your own bird feeder is bundles of fun for you and for the birds! This DIY bird feeder guide from the Audubon Society will walk you through every step. All it takes to get started is a milk carton.

7 Birds You Can Spot in Winter

While many birds stay in the Midwest throughout the winter, warblers and cranes may migrate south.

what birds stay in illinois for winter

If you keep black sunflower seeds in your feeder, you will undoubtedly draw in the lovely northern cardinal. Male and female year-round residents sing, which is a guaranteed way to make a winter day happier.

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A northern cardinal is recorded making its well-known song.

what birds stay in illinois for winter

Although it prefers sunflower seeds, the endearing tufted titmouse with its gray crest will also eat peanuts and other seeds. Watch what happens if they come across a large seed; they will carry it to a tree branch or other perch and use a few blows to crack it.

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A recording of a tufted titmouse singing its notable song.

what birds stay in illinois for winter

The snowy owl migrates south to find food when there is a lack of food in its tundra breeding grounds; it usually only goes as far south as central Illinois. In certain years, Illinois will welcome up to 75 snowy owls, while in other years, birdwatchers will be fortunate to spot even one. For hunting and roosting, snowies usually select cornfields or fields close to Lake Michigan. Although they consume voles in the north, snowy owls will also consume wintering ducks and other birds.

The early red-winged blackbirds return to southern Illinois in mid- to late-February; some may have spent the winter there. The arrival of red-winged blackbirds and the early song of song sparrows heralds the arrival of spring and the possibility of another amazing migration, which many birdwatchers, weary of the winter, look forward to.

Arriving in Illinois at the end of fall, winter finches and northern shrikes stay all winter long where food is available. When a shrike marks its territory, it stays there and, with patience, birdwatchers can get a chance to see it. The north unit of Illinois Beach State Park and Glacial Park in McHenry County are two locations where the northern shrike is most frequently spotted in northern Illinois.

During the winter, species of gulls and owls that breed further north migrate to Illinois in search of greater food. Ring-billed gulls live year-round in Illinois. However, the Icelandic, Thayer’s, and glaucous gulls join them from December to March. Since it can be challenging to identify these species, a number of bird clubs organized the yearly gull frolic at Winthrop Harbor, Illinois. In the comfort of a clubhouse, you can watch presentations about gull identification here. After that, you can go outside and look through scopes set up by knowledgeable gull watchers who will assist you in learning the finer points of identification. Other excellent locations to see gulls in the winter are Peoria Lock and Dam and Starved Rock Lock and Dam.

Geese can be found in areas with open water during the winter, along with diving ducks like goldeneyes, scaup, mergansers, and others. In central and southern Illinois, thousands of snow geese spend the winter near open rivers and lakes, while Canada geese winter throughout the state, feeding on the leftover corn and other crops in fallow fields.


What birds don’t migrate in Illinois?

Birds like Northern Cardinal, Downy Woodpecker, and House Sparrow stay here year round. Many migrating birds follow the 4 major flyways in North America, the Pacific, Central, Mississippi, and Atlantic. Illinois sits along the Mississippi Flyway and includes valuable stopover habitat, especially along Lake Michigan.

What is the best bird seed for winter in Illinois?

Black-oiled sunflower seed is attractive to the greatest variety of birds overwintering in Illinois. With a thin shell and energy-rich seed, black-oil sunflower seed can easily be consumed by many bird species.

What birds leave for the winter?

Some of the more well-known species that take part in the annual tradition include Canadian geese, hummingbirds, doves and cranes. Some of the birds are thought to fly only a few hundred miles, while others fly entire continents, depending on what their particular ecosystem needs are.

Are blue jays and cardinals winter birds?

Blue Jays, Red-breasted Nuthatches, and Northern Cardinals are just a few of the many winter birds that provide a burst of color and activity across a stark winter landscape.